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Vintage Guitar Magazine Presents:

by Wolf Marshall

Subject: Clapton Bluesbreaker

Fig.2. Slowhand's slow blues. Neil Slaven wrote in the Blues Breakers liner notes that Eric had the ability to make time stand still during his most emotional flights, particularly in the slow blues context. This poignant phrase captures several distinctive elements frequently heard in Eric's slow blues solos of the period. The lick is played over the I to V change (C7 to G7) of a 12-bar blues in C. Note the stammering speech rhythms (a la B.B.) and consistent hemiola displacement of the two-note riff in bar one. This insistent pattern contains vocalesque quarter-step bends throughout. In bar two we find two of Clapton's favorite melodic figures. The first over beats 1-3 combines a minor pentatonic scale line with a descending C major arpeggio and a descending scale. 

The second over beats 4-7 is an ascending melody which includes a unison bend. The concluding portion in bars two and three (beats 10 through 3) is a cadential motif which moves to the V chord with an authoritative descending line and a characteristic E to G interval jump. The overall mood of the long phrase with its serpentine multi-note patterns is generally reminiscent of Buddy Guy's crammed blues licks, but also contains undeniable hints of B.B. and Freddie King's soulful melodies. Play this one with your guitar's humbucking bridge pickup engaged, back the volume down slightly, and strive for a stinging treble sound with plenty of gain from your amp.

"I played these E.C. licks with a Gibson re-issue Les Paul Standard and a Fender Cyber-Twin amp. I used the rear pickup for Licks 1 and 2. Lick 3 was played with both pickups engaged. I used the stock "Blues Combo" setting in the Cyber-Twin's amp collection."

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